Italian political crisis, Silvio Berlusconi's bid to push Italy into new elections faces a test on Monday when he meets lawmakers from his center-right party who have shown growing unease over his shock decision to pull support from Prime Minister Enrico Letta's coalition.
Berlusconi's decision to order the five ministers from his People of Freedom (PDL) party to resign from Letta's cabinet has plunged Italy into political chaos and left the euro zone's third-largest economy without a functioning government.
Financial markets, which have been increasingly nervous about Italy after a week of rising political tensions, are expected to sell off government bonds and stocks on Monday, adding to the atmosphere of crisis.
Letta will go before parliament to seek support to continue in a confidence vote, probably on Wednesday, leaving two days of maneuvering among the parties, starting with a meeting between Berlusconi and PDL parliamentarians on Monday afternoon.
The billionaire media tycoon, who is fighting moves to expel him from parliament following his conviction for tax fraud last month, said at the weekend he wanted elections as soon as possible.
But he faces resistance not just from President Giorgio Napolitano, who would have to order parliament to be dissolved, but also from his own increasingly fractious supporters, some of whom may switch allegiance and back Letta's government.
All five of the ministers ordered to resign on Saturday complied but made statements expressing reservations or even outright disagreement with the decision, prompting Letta to hope that he may be able to win over center-right dissenters.
Speaking on RAI state television late on Sunday, he said the PDL ministers appeared to be at odds with Berlusconi and the parliamentary party, split between hardline "hawks" and more moderate "doves" also seemed uncertain.
"I hope that there is a part of the PDL which is not in accord with Berlusconi," he said.
Letta enjoys a commanding majority in the lower house but would need to win over a couple of dozen senators from the PDL or opposition parties including the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement to be able to be sure of parliamentary support.
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